Not many people can appreciate the construction of abstract art the way Long Beach artist Scott Burchard can. He paints detailed and vibrant abstract pieces, often reflective of the cosmos, using acrylic paints, several different tools and a keen eye on his color composition.
Burchard and his wife, Pamela Seager, both have a passion for art and happen to be big-time collectors. Seagar, the executive director of Rancho Los Alamitos, also helps Burchard with the layout of his shows.
“We both grew up with art,” he explains. “She worked in the world of art, and she grew up in a household of people who were very much into preserving antiquities. She grew up with a great appreciation for aesthetic and style. She hung [my current] show, and she’s very knowledgeable…you can see how there’s little groupings here and little groupings there. She tried to get them to work not only adjacent to each other, but to the piece along the way. It’s rather nice when you come into the room. I like the fact that the first image you really see, the image that grabs you the most, is the really strong work.”
Before abstract art, Burchard mostly painted landscape scenes using oils. He says it wasn’t until his wife asked him to do a “Jackson Pollock finish” on their kitchen floor that he became interested in acrylics.
“I experimented with the acrylics, and I researched quite a bit about Pollock,” he says. “I looked through the images, and I thought about it quite a bit, and in working with the acrylics I was just overwhelmed with how quickly I could suddenly go back to the canvas– in this case it was a floor– but they dried so quickly, and I really enjoyed just the manner in which they interacted. And when the kitchen floor was finished I found this piece of masonite in my garage, and I decided that I would continue with the exploring of the Jackson imagery, if you will. And that’s [my] piece, called ‘Yo Jackson’ that was finished in 2009. So, I did two more in the Pollock sort-of derivative style, and in so doing, I noticed how when I mixed the acrylics, how they interacted. And the more I worked with them, the more I thought that I wanted to paint images that were evocative of photographs that the Hubble Telescope might have taken. That started me in this whole galactic thing, and there’s a couple of those in ‘Cosmic Blues,’ then in [my] piece called ‘El Grand Conejo De Las Estrellas’ or ‘The Big Rabbit of the Stars.’”
Burchard explains that his style has changed tremendously since he began, and it is continuously changing. As he delves into the world of acrylics, he is fascinated by how the colors intertwine and react with one another. He uses this fascination to his advantage in the creative process.
“I’m moving more towards the realm of imagination in the cosmic scape, if you will. So that my style has now paintings more in the outer-world theme…such as, the Marvel series, images that you might see in the backdrop of a comic book. That’s one of my styles. Also, I work on two different grounds; one is black lacquer, and the other is white gesso. The white gesso look, I’ve been able to branch out [in the] Under Over series, where I hit upon painting a painting that I know I’m going to obscure with pigment. I paint this painting and let it dry, and then I skin the canvas with pigment. I like it more saturated, darker. We’re talking deep purples, deep blues, deep greens, and then I work wet on wet on top of that.”
He says that his process is very in-the-moment, and he has limited time to experiment with unlimited color combinations. He agrees that his art is extremely detailed and textured but says it is “of its own volition.”
“The acrylics, depending on a couple of elements in the acrylic– and I don’t know if I’m well versed enough to know what these are, but just the impression I get– that the dark purple, particularly when it’s wet on wet on top of another acrylic, has its own sort of molecular dance. The pigments do things, so if you put them in proximity to each other, then you get these pigments inter-reacting. It takes a sort of patience to watch it and see what happens. I also told you that I work with compressed air, so by painting underneath and then blowing the pigment away and scratching through and exposing with a paintbrush, revealing the underneath painting, you get these really wonderful, soft, sort-of like a peek-a-boo effect. Like [my] piece “Blue Scape.” I think the thing I really like to do is work with high-contrasting colors, so that you place them in contrast and [the colors] punch up. If you’re working with blue, I like to come in with a little orange, with red I like to place a little green, with yellow I like to introduce the purple. Working with the contrasting.”
Burchard became extremely ill in 2010 and used abstract painting as a type of therapy. He also explains how the effects of his illness later became inspirations for his pieces.
“It brought me back to life, it’s given me a focus,” says Burchard. “I’ve had a near-death experience, now I’m producing a lot more rapidly than I have in most years. I enjoyed it, but it was more of a dabbling thing. But subsequent to my medical problems, my ability to do what I used to do in the world has greatly diminished. So, painting was first and foremost therapy. It allowed me to get my internal systems and my body and mind working again, and just setting up a studio was a rather wonderful way of going about that. Going, ‘Okay, I’m not just going to the garage to paint my painting, I’m going to now make this my studio.’ Making that decision and creating that space was a big step and so, there’s also a wonderful psychological curve since I’ve been doing my shows. When I was at my worst, I had some amazing visions. When you’re near death, your mind, or at least my mind, painted some amazing pictures. Primarily Georgia O’Keeffe influences I would say. And there’s a lot of that in my work– trying to gain that, if not outright, homage to O’Keeffe with that sort-of flora, labial theme. Even in this painting, I can see elements. They inspired me.”
Burchard will be participating in the First Fridays Art Walk in Bixby Knolls beginning Aug. 2, showcasing his work at Nino’s Italian Restaurant, 3853 Atlantic Ave.